Chris Nashawaty
May 09, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

King of the Jews

Current Status
In Season
Nick Tosches
Ecco Press
Nonfiction, Biography

We gave it a C

In the 1920s, Arnold Rothstein was known as ”The Big Bankroll” and was said to carry $100,000 in walking-around money at all times. He was also rumored to be responsible for the fixed 1919 World Series. He was a gambler, a rain-maker, and as crooked as a Coney Island pretzel. And yet, at the end of Nick Tosches’ rambling biography, King of the Jews, he remains an enigma. Which may be the point. But it still leaves the reader feeling hoodwinked. It’s all the more tragic since Tosches’ 1992 bio of Dean Martin, Dino, is a classic of gonzo flair. But here he lazily crab-walks from Old Testament riffs to just-the-facts court transcripts. He clearly wants to depict Rothstein as some sort of biblical figure, but he hasn’t bothered to connect the dots.

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